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THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY of NATO was to be a celebration. A fine and noble postwar organization reveling in the stability and success it had brought the world. Pour the champagne! Let us salute this fine institution, maintaining peace In our time.

The problem is that NATO resembles not so much a strong and noble alliance as a marriage on the brink of destruction desperately trying to put on a good smile for the guests and failing miserably. All's good here, nothing to worry about ... what do you mean, brain dead? Maybe you should check your brain first before talking! I'm nasty? Let's get serious and stop blaming the other guy. Disruptive, am I? Did you just call me two-faced? Well so is your mamma!

It was a wonder there wasn't a food fight given the petulant behavior during the summit, though one could be excused for throwing some mashed potatoes across the room when your dinner guest is Donald Trump; that or making fun of him at a royal reception within earshot of a CBC microphone. That two-faced Trudeau, what a card!

But while Trudeau got the headlines, German Chancellor Angela Merkel got the best line. Calling out French President Emmanuel Macron for suggesting NATO was effectively brain dead, the alliance's den mother opined thus: "I understand your desire for disruptive politics, but I'm tired of picking up the pieces. Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together." Bravo Chancellor!

Of course this would be all so very hilarious if it were a sitcom and not an organization of 29 countries spending over a trillion dollars on defence and vainly hoping they'll find some reason to use all that expensive kit. Formed with a purpose after the Second World War, the organization has been in an existential tailspin since the fall of the Soviet Union. And it's been a midlife crisis full of pain, tears, and an awful lot of blood.

NATO's overreach and martial enthusiasm following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the '90s has been well documented. NATO's role in Afghanistan following the sole invoking by the United States of Article 5 (the "my war Is your war" clause) has led to 18 years of pointless death and destruction in the region, outlined in great detail most recently In The Afghanistan Papers by The Washington Post. This is to say nothing of NATO's bombing campaign in Libya that effectively resulted in a flood of weapons and further destabilization of much of northern and western Africa.

So instead of a calm, considered rethink of the purpose of NATO and the responsibility of its members the great debate in NATO is not what should it be doing, but how can it spend more money on lethality while not knowing what to do with it. Brilliant!

Yes, I refer to the two percent rule, that arbitrary and nonsensical spending requirement all NATO members agreed to follow, pointless as it may be. Initiated at the insistence of the United States in 2006 and codified in 2014 the mandate is very simple: we, the United States spend astronomical amounts of money on military spending, more than the world combined, almost four percent of our gross domestic product; and you dear NATO members don't, so pony up at least two percent or you're on your own. It's a bit like a crack addict getting angry that no one is smoking as much as he is, now get puffin' or get your ass out of the crack den. The difference of course is we're not talking about crack. I guarantee you crack does less harm.

So what does drinking tea have to do with all this? Think of it as a metaphor for sanity, sober second thought, the antithesis of a crazed cocaine addiction. NATO needs to mend its cups, sit calmly down and pour some tea before it all goes cold.

Michael Nickerson has been a columnist for Esprit de Corps since 2005. He can be reached at:

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Title Annotation:COMMENTARY
Author:Nickerson, Michael
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Jan 1, 2020

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